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Education & Technology….YES!

The Carson Project – A Current Proposal

A Collaboration between Agri-Science Opportunities and TEACCH at UNC

The Carson Project Mission Statement

“To facilitate transitions for individuals with high-functioning ASD to independent adulthood in a structured and supportive agricultural environment that leads to certification and/or employment opportunities and careers paths.”

The collaboration is between the private and public sector to create a vision that adapts today’s reality and tomorrow’s needs for high-functioning ASD young adults. It acknowledges changes in our economy, our workplace and world. The project treats each individual, educator, professional, parent and caregiver as a consumer so that the outcomes meet the needs of the consumers. It requires total community support, while holding each stakeholder accountable. It represents a direction, a hope, a commitment to place high-functioning ASD adults on a path of support so that they experience “meaningful and stable employment in predictable and rewarding work environments” (“Teacch autism program,” 2013).

The five pillars that will support this collaboration are : Safety, Resources, Services, People, and Quality. Within each pillar are specific goals for each individual, objectives and measures that are designed in collaboration with TEACCH and Agri-Science for each individual. As a result, initiatives and projects result in direct support of the goals and objectives.

These pillars are currently in alignment with the Models of Support already established within the UNC TEACCH Autism Program: “One-to-One Placement, Mobile Crew, Group Shared Support Site, and Standard Placement” (“Teacch autism program,” 2013).

Currently, UNC’s vocational opportunities include Manufacturing, Food Service, Office or Clerical, Landscaping, Grocery or Warehouse, Libraries, and Janitorial Services. Including the Agri-Science component creates another added value. As Temple Grandin has taught us through her 30 years of research and autism advocacy, “animals think in pictures and notice more details in their environment than most humans do” – except for the ASD population. This project would  make her research a reality, provide superior training in modern-day agriculture, ensure young adults have an opportunity to gain necessary employability skills, add to economic growth, and give hope to many families and students who feel trapped by their teen or young adult’s ASD diagnosis. It would naturally incorporate sensory-motor needs on a daily basis. As you know, fear stops these teens from performing in the same way fear stops cows from doing particular tasks. If we know these things to be true, then an agricultural environment naturally takes into account the special needs automatically.

The Carson Project Vision

The Vision of the Carson Project is to train people with high-functioning ASD to work as consultants in food, water, and energy production, innovative marketing strategies, cattle genetic advancements, agri-science education and technology,  and research that improves the human condition worldwide.

Since the economy, energy, technology, and the food condition are changing rapidly, the private industry of Agri-Science Opportunities envisions the possibility of training high-performing workers to utilize information, solve real world problems, and become an integral part of the agri-science industry. The project is modeled after its predecessor in the Denmark, “Specialisterne (the name means “the specialists”) founded by Thorkil Sonne. His company trains people with autism as specially skilled employees who are sent out as hourly consultants to companies to do data entry, assembly work and other jobs that many workers would find tedious and repetitive” (Tachibana, 2009). In this country,  Aspiritech, a non-profit Chicago company, “trains high-functioning autistics as testers for software development companies” (Tachibana, 2009).

While the overall field of agriculture is considered the second most dangerous type of work, it is not limited to the use of machinery or 1000 pound animals. It is diverse, requires specific skills and encompasses specific technology. In Temple Grandin’s book Developing Talents, she writes, “Society loses out if individuals with autism spectrum disorders are not involved in the world of work, or make other kinds of contributions to society” (Grandin, 2004).

Agri-Science Opportunities needs reliable people for web design, highly specialized accounting, plumbing for water sources, electricians for general and specific purposes, farm repairs, unique landscaping, research, graphic design and commercial art, engineering design for farming, and consulting. These types of businesses are highly specialized, need creative problem solving, and use visual thinking skills. UNC TEACCH is the link to helping high-functioning ASD people manage their sensory systems and other challenges that a work environment poses. The following is a link from the Nantucket Project: It is a video of distinguished experts, founders, and advocates for ASD people in the workplace. Carly Fleishmann, author and autism advocate, is the special guest. She is completely non-verbal, but is able to communicate extensively through technology. She is accompanied by her support person, Howard Dela. I add this reference to prove the importance of creating opportunities for this population.


The initial high priority needs are as follows:

  • Bridge the gap for high-functioning Asperger an AD/HD young adults between high school and college.

  • Create an alternative one-to-one teaching/training/mentoring experience for students to gain specific expertise.

The existing one-to-one model that is in place through UNC-TEACCH would be the standard of the supported internship and/or employment. The program would in effect be a tripod system. A student team would comprise a student specialist from the NC State Agricultural Department who applies for this specific internship program through a collaboration formed between Agri-Science Opportunities, UNC TEACCH and N.C. State Agricultural department. It is a direct fit with Agri-Science Opportunities structures, the model of one-to-one support from UNC- TEACCH which includes a personal job coach, and offers NC State students expanded unique opportunities in agriculture and shaping the future of another human.

A training program would consist of a syllabus and  job-performance outcomes that can lead to other intern programs, employment and/or certification depending on the strengths and interests of the student. While field training will be essential, there is also classroom training for reframing that teaches how to change a negative situation into positive ones, safety while on site, nomenclature, technology, tools,  and systems training. In this first stage of the program, a student and his team could participate two to three days a week in the program. The time frame would vary depending on the nature of the applicant.

This program has the potential to be a model for others across the nation and the globe. It is innovative. It can be sustained, and it will have a direct social impact on the local families and communities. It has the power to change the landscape for people who are high-functioning Asperger and/or AD/HD.

There can also be an admissions criteria to include the following:

  • 18-26 years old who have graduated high school with a regular diploma

  • Documented diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, NLD, Dyslexia or other Learning Differences

  • High level of motivation to meet program goals

  • Emotional, behavioral, and psychologically stability

The process could be as follows:

  • Fully completed application
  • A nonrefundable application processing fee
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or Wechsler Adult Intelligence   Scale (WAIS) (no more than two years prior to application)
  • Woodcock Johnson Achievement or Wechsler Individual Achievement Test          (WIAT) (no more than two years prior to application)
  • Current Psychological Evaluation/Mental Status Exam
  • Completed Parent Questionnaire
  • 2 Letters of reference
  • Resume if applicable
  • Official High School Transcripts/Previous College Transcripts
  • Student Photo
  • Latest IEP (if applicable)
  • Completion of Highlands Battery for Natural Abilities for best placement options


Since this program would be driven by UNC-TEACCH, it is important to create a conversation about current funding for the existing One-to-One Model. Funding sources need to include state and federal grants, private grants from a variety of foundations, agencies, individual donors and parent groups.

There are several listed below with potential benefits:

Driving Scientific Initiative with Innovation in Autism, LLC – allows us to invest in for-profit entities

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

The Abilities Fund –

Association for Enterprise Opportunity –

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) -Social Security Administration


Grandin, T. (2004). Developing talents: Careers for individuals with asperger syndrome   and high-functioning autism. Shawnee Mission: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

Scott, T. (Co-Founder) (2012). God-like technology. [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Tachibana, C. (2009, 12 08). Autism seen as asset, not liability, in some jobs. Retrieved from

Teacch autism program. (2013). Retrieved from

Teacch autism program. (2013). Retrieved from

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Live Broadcasts

My son must attend a live collaboration lesson for English or Leadership once a semester on a particular topic. So this time, I sat in on two of them with him. The first was the English assignment on betrayal which would become the study of Julius Caesar. Jake really struggled through the live webinar. It’s purpose is to engage students enrolled in the class in a collaborative setting. It’s drawbacks to Jake, at least, include the speed of it – it goes to fast for him. He finds them confusing. The voice of the teacher is usually too southern or high-pitched. He was just bored and tuned out within ten minutes of the hour long presentation. It was so dissatisfying that he could not even respond to the final component for a grade of attendance. He failed. However, in his tutorial class on Julius Caesar, he is passing with 90s and above. So the format was not successful for him.

In his leadership class, he had the option to attend a live webinar. Based on his past experiences, I had the inclination that he would not choose to attend. He did, but it was special. Mawi Asgedom was the presenter. He is the author of Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard © 2011 Associated Press. Jake has found him inspiring throughout the course. That is why is choose to attend the hour long webinar without complaint. Here is what he wrote about his experience:

I was at the Mawi live lesson on 2/19/13.
There were many things that Mawi talked about but mostly was about bullying. He talked about something that he does to help teach other students how to stand up for themselves. For me I have been bullied for most of my life until I was home schooled. These stories were very nice to here because it shows that other people will stand up for you.

Jake received a 100. It was interactive and you could write in questions. Jake choose not to, but he did choose to stay engaged the whole time and even talked more about it to us at dinner that night. What a promising difference between the English webinar and the Leadership one.

While, the above was a personal experience, I also discovered my own preferences. I am a big fan of I had downloaded the EDUCATION topic with Sir Ken Robinson, one of my favorite presenters, and had a chance to watch and listen to one of his newer conversations: Bring on the learning revolution. I also searched for other broadcasts from the list provided. I tried some out, but become quickly bored with them. While the titles and descriptions intrigued me, the content did not hold my attention beyond 10 minutes. The one that I really wanted to delve into was not being broadcast until later in the month which posed a timing issue. So, I went back to my iTunes library and refreshed my memory of my favorite presenters.

The show format of is strength. I cannot allude to any weaknesses. It is caring, passionate, and poignant. It is not rambling. The presenters bring energy to the stage. You want to listen, take notes, stay engage and re-listen or re-watch. I find myself saving the broadcasts to participate in future shows. But even though I am not participating directly like in other types of broadcasts by exchanging my name or actually meeting the facilitator, I actually feel that I am because gives me the opportunity to listen, reflect and add to my library of quotes, expressions, and useful commentaries.  This type of webcast can be incorporated into the classroom in a variety of ways depending on the teacher and ages of students.  As a learner, I prefer choice as with this assignment. The task was clear, but how we arrived at the answers for discussion purposes relied on my choices. It made me care more – generally, a missing factor for preteens and teens sitting in classroom desks. While I like watching video within a classroom, I prefer watching independently. I can start, rewind, review, takes notes and/or pause on my terms which keeps me more engaged. Another example might be pre-watching in the classroom, and then having the opportunity to independently watch.  If I had a classroom, I might use programming like I use Pinterest or blogging. I would want students to create their own collection of webcasts that have the most meaning to them. It would be my job as the facilitator to introduce the topics, and the students’ job to collect a library of favorites in a blog devoted specifically to favorite shows. I would want students to be able to find a quote used, the title to the referencing to a book or author and save it to their blog. For example, Sir Ken Robinson, referenced a quote from Abraham Lincoln and the poet W.B. Yeats. It had meaning to me, so I added to my collection. While this is a time heavy task, it is an added value and brings perspective and meaning to the table.  Since the collaborators of has assigned creative commons license, it allows me as a broadcaster to incorporate clips that might be relevant to a webinar that I might produce. It offers me creative licensing which allows for a better integrated message.

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A Picture a Day Project

Originally, I was going to participate in the daily Tweets, but because my days were so filled, I did not find myself having the adequate time to post or upload six times a day. Therefore, I quickly determined that the Picture a Day project was more reasonable for my time schedule. I also wanted to stick to a theme. While I researched the project on-line as indicated in the assignment, I chose my own category: Unusual sites during my days. I was not sure how that theme would present itself, but it did because I became keenly aware of things that were not ordinary in my typical day. It was fun to watch for the surprises. Maybe these things are always there, but I took time to look and appreciate. On day one, ironically, my teenage son spotted a tortoise in our backyard. He was slowly cruising near our lanai. When I originally went to upload, I had some issues, but then just sent the image to my e-mail. Once downloaded into Windows Live Photo Gallery, I was able to crop and size appropriately for an upload to edublogs.

The second picture was just as unexpected as the first. Ice in southwest Florida – that was out of place. At my center, I teach one-to-one technology courses to students enrolled in our language program. These students have expressive and receptive language delays. Technology has been a major bonus to these kids. I use apps such as Word Mover, Educreations, and MadLibs which all integrate easily into our language training program. So this picture is unusual to me because it is a 10 year old with natural technology abilities teaching an 80 year old who has had to adapt. Outdoor Living magazine was sitting on our counter for some reason. I was eating breakfast and flipping through it, and found this insane ad. It would be difficult for me to work for a company that has to put a health warning on a product. The Kiss statue, electric car and DeLorean are all unusual items to see…at least for me on an average day.

I liked this project very much. It allowed me to wiggle out of “normal” each day and take a breath. I actually want to try to continue to by using Pinterest. I have actually made a board and included in my blog. Just click on it and you can see the unusual pictures that seemed to find their way into my busy days.

I did have each picture loaded on the blog, initially, but I just found it too cumbersome and non-social media like. The pictures on Pinterest are not in my original order, and while I worked with it, was unable to reorder them. That was really the only technological difficulty I encountered.

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Mobile Technology in the Classroom

I had the pleasure of interviewing a colleague who happens to also be my triathlon partner. Dr. Sheila Halpin. She is the Parental Involvement, Family Literacy and Compliance Coordinator of Manatee County Schools. Her only experience with mobile devices within her county is in regards to professional development which involved being able to connect directly to other educators in China. While there is professional development with mobile devices, it is not reaching down to the classroom level. There are concerns about barriers and privacy issues. The most blatant challenges at the professional development conference was that not everyone had the same kinds of phones. Matter-of-fact, Dr. Halpin, shared that unless you had an iPhone of a Droid with apps, you could not participate. For some educators, this was unfulfilling. The same problem exist with students: students have different technology. The conference highlighted that the county can no longer think linearly or continue to do business as usual. The world is becoming smaller because of how digital technology connects people. One of the difficulties that public education faces on the technology front is while students are supposed to have a “free and accessible education,” technological creates an uneven playing field.

I learned two interesting thoughts from our conversation: technology and education have not really merged at the classroom level in all districts, and mobile technology isn’t evenly distributed. There is too much variety which makes it difficult to use it in the classroom efficiently. There are ways to shift this, but it takes so much extra effort on the part of the teachers who are already overloaded and stressed by tight, unbreathable boundaries.


Halpin, S. (2013, February 15). Interview by A.F. Weinberger [Personal Interview]. Mobile

technology in the classroom.


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Facebook, VoiceThread, and Pinterest

The words Facebook, Voicethread, and Pinterest were not even collectively part of our vocabulary even five years ago. Matter-of-fact, if I mention any of these words to my parents, they ask me to repeat myself and explain them which is almost impossible to do when a generation cannot visually map an internet page. But these are not just words, these are social networking trends that involve thinking, creating, sharing and doing, and they are part of the movable landscape of the spectrum of interactive media (Dede, 2009).

Facebook hit our family when our daughter was preteening as we called it. It was not a pretty time. Not only did we have the commitment of parenting, but Facebook, at the time seemed to come with no boundaries, and my husband and I found ourselves writing the playbook. Internet was not as powerful as it is now, and after some quick searches, I actually found the Facebook rule book. It gave me a chuckle. My husband and I could have put our overlay directly on top of this article, and we would find that we were right on the mark despite the protests or disappointments of our daughter. Here is the link to that Facebook playbook: It should actually be aligned next to the newborn guidelines parents take home from the hospitals. While our babies don’t come with explicit instructions, Facebook does. This social media brings one-to-one interactions to the playing field.

Three of my favorite guides are as follows:

1) – It provides a teacher with solid and relevant conversation topics within a group setting like a classroom such as atmosphere, social media, school initiatives and communication.

2) It explicitly shows how to set up profile pages, applications, and personal learning networks.

3) Of the three, you will get a chuckle of this site. It has topics that addresses “A 10-Year-Old Explains How To Properly Use Facebook,” “How Teachers SHOULD & SHOULDN’T Use Facebook,” and “The Types of People To Avoid On Facebook.”

Does Facebook have a place in the classroom? If the guidelines are actually used by educators and taught to students, then it creates transparent communication between a class, parent and teacher community.

Creative sites such as VoiceThreads – Conversations in the Cloud is “a media aggregator that allows people to post me­dia artifacts for community feedback” (“7 things you,” ), and offers a creative platform unlike Facebook where users add voice feedback via microphone, webcam, keyboard, or telephone. Educationally, it supports the process of creating oral histories and other types of presentations. It is useful for students who have dysgraphia because they can use voice explanations for photos or slide shows instead of engaging in the often difficult process of the written language. In essence, it supports digital storytelling and offers the author a creative platform to express knowledge. The advantages of VoiceThread are its ability to allow authentic critique feedback and reflection between peer groups. The downside of the technology, for now at least, is that it only allows one user at a time to be logged in on the account which does not offer participation at a group level. Bill Ferriter, a 6th grade language arts teacher in North Carolina, wrote a blog called Scoring Voicethread Participation which offers clear guidelines about assessing VoiceThreads. He uses a metacognitive approach: “To craft careful answers, [students] must truly consider the comments of others—an essential skill for promoting collaborative versus competitive dialogue—and compare those comments against their own beliefs and preconceived notions” (Ferriter, 2008). Here is an example of one of my VoiceThreads: which will give you the option to offer feedback. In my research, I did find a rubric for educators to use for grading a VoiceThread – . I did not find this type of tool for educators using Facebook. There is also an extensive wiki presentation on the use of VoiceThread in the classroom – . It is interesting how VoiceThread is taken much more seriously from an education perspective than Facebook. Just the writing styles of the postings convey a different tone.

Once again, I know Pinterest through my daughter. I don’t quite understand its point, but it seems to be a bulletin board for posting pictures only. Like Facebook, it also has a clear set of guidelines called Pin Etiquette and a set of directions called Pinning 101. However, I am not sure who reads them though because it is not necessarily set up for education. When I signed up for my account, I certainly did not make any attempt to investigate it. I just simply participated. It creates a categorization process which has educational value. I chose the fitness topic and chose five board that inspire me. On the confirmation e-mail that I received once I “signed up”, it gave me three specific guidelines:

A few tips to get the most out of Pinterest:

*Follow a few more pinboards. Pinterest is as much about discovering new things as it is about sharing!

*Pin with care. You are now part of the Pinterest community! Use big images, write thoughtful descriptions, and pin things you really love. Also, no nudity 🙂

*Install the bookmarklet. It lets you add a pin from any website with just one click.

Some of these words are brand new to me. Like pinboards, pinterest, and bookmarklet. Once I navigated the site more, I began wondering how a teacher would use it. Initially, I was not sure that I would make the recommendation for a teacher to use it. There is a listing under the heading of business, but there are no references for education. However, there is a collaboration activity mentioned. It is an invitation to others to “pin with you,” and there is the opportunity to ask questions on your Facebook page and pin the responses to your Pinterest. This website could be appropriate in a high school setting with guidelines, of course. It could be a visual journal of a current event such as the past election, of the current strife in Syria or how the different news media have established specific reputations. Storytelling with pictures can be a powerful activity and create a meaningful learning event. I can even see it having some relevance in one-to-one language intervention because of the categorization style.

Overall, these three websites can have relevance in the classroom. The key is to make sure that educators understand the guidelines and implement them. There is a plethora of information on the internet specifically for teachers to become more proficient. While Pinterest was the only one without any direct educator guidance, they all have made a strong presence on the internet. They are here to stay, until the newer, better and faster experience revolutionizes this one.


Ferriter, B. (2008, July 27). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Fogg Phillips, L., Baird, D., & Fogg, B. J. (n.d.). Facebook for educators. Retrieved from…/Facebook for Educators….

Rego, B. (2009). A teacher’s guide to using facebook. Retrieved from

(n.d.). 7 things you should know about.. voicethread. Retrieved from

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Using New Technologies

I wear several different hats. I am an educational consultant, the director of The Thinking Center (a reading and cognitive training clinic), a reading therapist and a home school mom. Most of my contacts are with other home school families, my private clients, and colleagues in the medical and psychological fields, so I have direct limited access to other educators using new technologies. So, I had to get creative about how to complete this assignment.

I do have access to It is the public on-line high school in the state of Florida. Both my kids have used this to access high school, and we see quite a few kids through my company who use it as well. I have been using it for the last five years. They actually have a link on each of the subject pages called “Web 2.0.” Here are their comments about it which helps satisfy the three answers to the discussion questions posed:

            Caution: The content of the links on this website is beyond the control of FLVS. Some content may be objectionable.

            The FLVS Web 2.0 Tools Archive is a collection of links and sites that have been reviewed for educational value,

currency, and accuracy. However, FLVS has no control over the content of these websites and does not accept

responsibility or liability for the material found in them. Additionally, the viewpoints found on these websites are not

the viewpoints of FLVS, nor does FLVS endorse products for sale on these websites. Web 2.0 refers to interactive tools

available on the internet to create, communicate, collaborate, and build cross-cultural relationships. They provide

ways to network and use data, often for free, with easy access. The collection  contains video editors, paint programs,

note taking tools, blogs, wikis, and photo editors, as well as many other kinds of tools. You may wish to use these

resources to collaborate with peers and showcase your project work.

There is a drop down box that introduces the following categories that FLVS has deemed as reputable Web 2.0 tools: Digital Imaging, Blogging, Office Tools, Collaborative Learning, Audio and Video, Social Networking, Knowledge Sharing, and On-line Presentations. Each title offers their recommendations with links to them. Interestingly, many of the teachers that I have worked with regarding assignments on FLVS are really not that familiar with the tools. My son and I are always a bit surprised that the on-line high school teachers just don’t be up to speed with these tools.

In summary, FLVS technology department seemed to collaboratively choose which tools they would share within their portal. It states on the Web 2.0 introduction page, “Note for students 12 and under: If a site requires registration or sign-up, you will need a parent or guardian to assist you. Finally, the advice I would give to the teachers that my son works with or other online teachers, is to familiarize yourself with the tools that the organization you work for is recommending to its students.

Examples of Web 2.0 Tools Approved by FLVS:

Digital Imaging –,

Blogging –,

Office Tools-,

Collaborative Learning-,

Audio and Video –,

Knowledge Sharing –,

Online Presentation –,



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